Pack Smart For Today’s Airport Security

A Packing Update Following the September 11 Tragedy

by Susan Foster, packing expert & author of “Smart Packing for Today’s Traveler”

I have discussed packing options for smooth travel with airlines, airports, and government agencies. What to Know Before Arriving at the Airport

1. There are increased passenger and baggage security screenings. Airports are managed independently. Do not expect the same security procedures in all cities.

2. New luggage check-in procedures:

Curbside luggage check-in is available at some airlines at some airports and is the best way to avoid the airline front-counter check-in lines. Call your airline to verify that this service is available.
You must check your bags yourself and must show current government-issued photo identification (driver’s license or passport.) Be prepared to present your photo ID and boarding pass at the airline check-in counter, at the security checkpoint, and again at the gate. You may also be subject to additional screening at the gate. Luggage may be checked no more than 4 hours prior to flight time

3. Understand what may be carried on and what must be packed in checked baggage:

No knives or cutting instruments of any size will be allowed in the aircraft cabin. Pocketknives may be carried only in checked baggage. No sharp objects of any kind or size will be allowed through security checkpoints‚ including scissors, corkscrews, multipurpose tools, metal nail files, or knitting needles. They will be confiscated. Pack these items in your checked luggage. The FAA allows walking canes and umbrellas onboard, and safety razors (including disposables), nail clippers, tweezers, and syringes (permitted only for passengers with documented medical needs) in carry-on bags. Empty out all pockets in carry-on purses, briefcases, and suitcases to remove any restricted items — a corkscrew, Swiss Army knife, or metal nail file that you always keep packed in a bag.

4. Only ticketed passengers may pass through the security checkpoint. Check in advance with your airline to know which ticket documentation (tickets, boarding passes, or reservation confirmations) security screeners will allow.

Check Your Bag or Carry It On?Airports advise checking bags to reduce your wait at security checkpoints.According to the FAA, passengers on domestic flights are limited to one carry-on bag not to exceed 45 linear inches (length + width + height), plus one personal item such as a purse, laptop, or briefcase.
Wait to lock each bag until your luggage has been accepted by the airline at the check-in counter or cleared by security. Keep luggage keys handy. There is heightened vigilance for identifying and confiscating unattended bags. Do not leave your bag unattended at any time or place while traveling. Increased Security Takes More Time

1. Call your airline to see how much time you should allow at the airport. Many recommend arriving at least 1 1/2 hours in advance for domestic flights, 2 hours in advance for international flights. Allow even more time for peak hours or holiday travel.

2. In addition to electronic scanning of baggage, airline personnel and security checkpoint guards will randomly open and check bags. To speed this process: Go directly to the security checkpoint. Lines build in seconds, so don’t get caught with too little time to clear security. Use airport services inside the secure area. Pack a healthy dose of patience plus a book or magazine to pass the waiting time. Pack bags so contents are easily examined. Use see-through containers to speed hand checking of cosmetics or groups of clothing. Speed up hand searches by packing a bag that has one large open space rather than many compartments, and don’t use the small pockets. Empty pockets of unnecessary coins or keys, and avoid large metal belt buckles or jewelry. Passenger screening equipment has been set to lower tolerances. Leave extra jewelry at home or pack in your checked bag. Place your wallet and jewelry in your carry-on when passing through the screening station so they will be X-rayed. You may be asked to remove your shoes and coat and pass them through the screening machine. You may also be subjected to handheld metal detector wand searches and hand pat downs. Check for all your belongings before leaving the screening area! Wallets, keys and coins, jewelry, cell phones‚ even laptops‚ are often forgotten.

Minimize Screening Time Scanning equipment reads a total of the metal on you. Metal buttons, zippers, hair accessories, shoe fittings and shanks may add up to wanding and pat down searches. Pare down by packing metal items in a checked bag or placing in your carry-on at security. Women should consider wearing a bra without an underwire to avoid wand and hand pat-down searches. Limit the electronic equipment (cell phones, CD players, pagers, games, etc.) and place in your carry-on bag. You may be asked to prove that they work. so have batteries installed. Laptop computers must be removed from a travel case so both can be X-rayed separately. Purchase beverages (coffee, soft drinks) inside the secure area after passing through security. Otherwise, they must be carefully examined. Powdery products (talcum powder, make-up, flour, coffee creamer, craft products, etc) may even bring out the Hazardous Materials Team. Seal these products in strong plastic bags and pack in your checked baggage only. Wrapped packages may be unwrapped, searched, and confiscated. Pack in a checked bag or plan to wrap upon arrival. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Susan Foster has been traveling for over 30 years and has spent her entire career living out of a suitcase. As Susan Pletch she became a household name in the sewing world, writing four books and crisscrossing the country giving sewing seminars and designing sewing patterns for Vogue and McCall’s. Having packed and unpacked over 4,000 times, Foster is the perfect person to give advice on packing. To order Smart Packing for Today’s Traveler by Susan Foster, click here.